If it doesn't scare you, it wont scare them

I write speculative fiction.  The genre encompasses fantastical fiction, science fictionfantasyhorror, supernatural, paranormal, superhero stuff, utopian and dystopian, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.  I consider and query my stories as paranormal, because the stories have an otherworldly element set within the real world we operate in.  

I've always worked under the idea that, if it doesn't scare me or creep me out, it is not going to scare or creep out the reader.  So I try to get into the zone when I sit down to work on the novels; a state of being creeped out.  We have a pretty big, un-fenced backyard.  For a while, before I sat down to write, I would go stand in the middle of our yard in the dark for a solid five minutes.  And it creeped me out.   

Fear rests in the unknown, a festering unseen in the dark fueled by imaginings within the onlooker.  It breeds along the pulses racing within the synaptic corridors and it grows, stretching and groaning from those things hidden in the back of your head wished to be forgotten but unable to be forgot.  Stuck between the cold of night that waits for dawn to rise and illuminate the day safe and the steady silt of the hourglass; it grows.

And it waits. Feeding on the chills running along the backs of your arms as you convince yourself there really isn’t anything lurking around the corner; there really isn’t anything hunkered down in the shadows, because you’re only imagining things.  But deep down, past those images unable to be erased that taunt and bray as aloof and inconsequential, there is the nag begging you to get back inside the house.  And everything balances on the frail, the delicate and seemingly nuanced inner turmoil to believe in that moment there is something in the dark, because we shape it.  

Standing in the yard inspired several scenes for The Thinplace, my second novel.  But it got old, fell into a routine, so I had to find a new way to get in the creepy zone to work.  So I would watch scary videos, like this one called Lights Out from the Who's There Film Challenge.  It usually does the trick.

The other night I was sitting in my writing room about to get to work.  I sit down in my chair and lean over to pick up my computer.  As I place it on my lap, I hear the sound of baby laughter coming from the speakers.  I am instantly creeped out.  I get my ear close to the speaker to confirm I'm not crazy, and I hear a baby laughing.  I text my wife, "there is baby laughter coming out the speakers of my computer, and I haven't turned it on yet."  She texts back, "Yuck."

The laughing stops so I turn the computer on, still creeped out.  It is quiet in my room, so I sit back and open up the story I am working on, and as I get comfortable in my chair I hear the laughter again; and I am officially spooked.

I put the computer down and looked under my chair, in the bookshelf, open the door and walk around my room.  Surely something is making that noise.

I find nothing.

So I sit back down and put the computer on my lap, and there it is.  The eerie sound of some baby laughing.  I text my wife again, "I'm still hearing it.  And it is creeping me out."  She texts back, "Look under the cushion of your chair."

I lift the cushion of my chair and find a small speaker with a button.  My wife had taken the speaker out from one of my daughter's dolls and put it under the lip of the cushion of my chair, so when I sat down it would press the button and then emit the creepy sound of a baby laughing.  

I text her back, "That scared the crap out of me! Nice job."

My wife had creeped me out.  

So, I got to work.

 

Stay alive,

-M.P. Callender